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Life at the Office
It started when he stopped going home. The rent in San Francisco was so
expensive and the commutes so painful that it just seemed easier not to
leave. Nobody really noticed at first—the cleaning crew came in around
7 and just assumed he was staying late, while the other employees just
assumed he was an early riser. And really, who’s going to complain about
an employee who puts in too much time at the office? Especially when he
wasn’t using it to get additional work done.
Then he started wondering if he could eliminate the trip for food too.
He found a website that sold nutritionally-balanced diet bars and
ordered a whole tub, which he placed under his desk. All day he’d be
munching on one bar or another, no longer feeling hungry around lunch or
dinner. So he just sat at his desk munching instead. Strangely, this
didn’t seem to make him any more productive.
Between the lack of exercise and nonstop eating, he began growing fat.
Nobody really said anything to him about it. He was rail-thin when he
started so many co-workers were secretly happy to see him put on a few
pounds. But it quickly got out of hand, with rolls of fat oozing between
the cracks in his Aeron chair. Still, nobody wants to insult a fat man,
so he just continued to grow. He never really needed to leave his chair
anymore, so he didn’t mind it much.
Soon he began—I’m not quite sure how to describe it, I guess he was
sort offusingwith the chair. The rolls of fat would sneak through a
crack and then continue growing, like vines crawling through a gate. It
quickly got to the point where he couldn’t even get out of the chair if
he wanted too, the fat had locked him in. He could still roll around the
office on it but that movement quickly became tiring and as he grew
fatter the wheels snapped off.
Nobody really seemed to mind, though. He had become an office
fixture—people came to him now. He’d chat with them about their day or
keep an eye on things for them. Since he was always there he knew
everything that went on in the office and people could always rely on
him for gossip or signing for their packages.
Soon it seemed like he was part of the office itself, like some sort of
roboreceptionist you read about in Negroponte novels. Desks began subtly
organizing themselves around him and employees began treating him as
just another office fixture. There’s the bathroom and there’s the
kitchen and there’s, well, you know…
And then, one day, they left. Some corporate restructuring or something;
they were all being moved to a different building. People packed their
stuff in boxes, cleaners cleaned one more time, and then suddenly they
were all gone. He was all that was left, keeper of an office without any
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November 10, 2006